Monday, October 16, 2006

Reliving "The Clemens Massacre"

Today is yet another anniversary (and there's plenty more to come over the next two weeks). It was 7 years ago today that I went to my first ever postseason baseball game. It was at Fenway Park, and it is a game I affectionately refer to as "The Clemens Massacre."

It was Saturday, October 16, 1999, and the Red Sox and Yankees were about to meet in Game 3 of the ALCS. My pal Greg called me early that morning to tell me that he had just gotten 3 tickets to that day's game at Fenway, and was I interested in going. I sure as hell was, and we met up in Manhattan and we drove up to Boston with his son that afternoon.

Greg had gotten the tickets through a connection in the Yankees. We got to our seats, and as soon as the game started, I noticed a number of things. We were in a section in the back just to the left of home plate, a fantastic seat. I also saw a Boston police officer by our section from the start of the game, and I also saw no one else around me wearing any Red Sox paraphernalia at all. I discovered that we were in a reserved section for the Yankees players and their families, and I was about the only Sox fan in it. (The police officer was there at the request of the Yankees, just to be safe. There was no trouble at all.)

The game was a "classic matchup" between Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens. The press was hyping this game to no end. Pedro had just had his best year ever, winning 23 games. (But that asshole from the New York Daily News, George King, denied Pedro his deserved AL MVP award because he left him completely off his ballot.) The Red Sox had lost the first two games, and they needed this game to get back in the series.

The Sox came out firing, scoring two runs in the first and second innings. John Valentin hit a homer off Clemens in the first, and the Fenway crowd of 33, 190 really let him have it. Chants of "Ro-ger" "Ro-ger" cascaded across the ballpark, along with some other things I won't write (as I want to keep this in good taste).

In the third, Clemens got into more trouble, and finally Joe Torre pulled him, and the Fenway faithful was merciless in their use of colorful language at their former-hero-now-turncoat star pitcher. (It was later revealed the torrent of abuse directed at him left his wife in tears, as she was in the stands.) His final pitching line for the game was:

2+ innings, 6 hits, 5 earned runs, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts, 1 home run allowed.

Clemens was relieved by Hideki Irabu (remember "The Fat Toad," who Rudy Giuliani once gave the Key to the City to?), and he took a pounding, giving up 7 runs in nearly five innings of work, including home runs to Brian Daubach and Nomar Garciaparra.

I was the only one in my section cheering all day. It was amazing seeing all those Yankee fans I was sitting with having to sit on their hands all afternoon.

However, Pedro Martinez was nothing short of superb. He allowed only two hits over 7 innings, struck out 12 and walked 2, allowing no runs. It was an extraordinary performance, and the Red Sox went on to an easy 13-1 win. As the game ended, the Fenway crowd was in a raucous mood, and sensed a great comeback in the series by the home side.

It was not meant to be, as the Yankees won the next two games and the ALCS in five games. We'd have to wait for another five years for the ALCS Miracle Comeback.

October 16, 1999 was one of my most fun days ever in any ballpark. It was worth anything just to see Roger The Carpetbagger get his head handed to him in the place he once called home.


Peter N said...

The Petey of then...he was....well, just soo good. We were so lucky to be able to watch him show us his craft during his prime. And yes, although I was not there, I remember the game like it was yesterday..the TV experience was THAT good. Great memories...great reading...great stuff. Thanks.

The Omnipotent Q said...

It was so exciting to be there that day, Peter. One of my favorite baseball memories. Thanks as always for the kind words.